I was sent an article today that I wrote (and forgot about) for Atheism Resource last year. It was back when Cranston residents were admonishing the banner committee to be heroes by fighting a losing fight.
Jessica Ahlquist is a sophomore at Cranston High School West in Rhode Island, where a Christian prayer has been hanging in the gymnasium since the 1960s. Though she did not file the initial complaint, Jessica certainly doesn’t care for it and her objections have caused quite a stir. Last night the school committee voted 4-3 to keep the banner up and to face a forthcoming lawsuit.
Said one religious supporter who elected to speak at the meeting:
“I say we fight the good fight,” said Peter Paolella, a Cranston High School West graduate whose children attend the city’s public schools. He urged the School Committee to keep a prayer at Cranston West, even if that meant going to court. “America needs a hero. Let’s be the hero.”
What a crock of shit. What the school board is doing is illegal, no question. They are not standing on principle unless that principle is insisting that they are above the law, which is a terrible example to set for the students in their charge. Responsible adult citizens who disagree with our laws should work through the system to change them legally instead of violating them. If everyone got to pick and choose which laws to disregard we would be well on the road to anarchy.
Not only has the committee conveyed that ‘lesson’, they seem to be sharply implying that students cannot pray unless commanded to do so. I would think the religious denizens of Cranston would be livid about that position, but none of them seem to be.
Only someone deeply intoxicated by faith could consider the four pious masochists on the school committee to be heroes. They are about to take a very large portion of the taxpayers’ money that was supposed to go toward providing a decent education to these students and they are going to piss it away on what will be a slam dunk case in favor of Ms. Ahlquist. That’s not heroic, it’s selfish, and it shows a disregard for the students whose quality of schooling will suffer on account of the committee’s decision. Sure, the martyr-happy faithful will blame Jessica when the school district starts hemorrhaging cash because she didn’t bend over and kowtow to the majority, and in doing so prevented them from breaking the law in a fashion that would marginalize the atheists. Well, frankly, fuck those people. The blame rightly resides on the shoulders of the four committee members who voted to stand on faith rather than upon their commitment to their community, to the law, and to their students.
There is not enough shame on Earth to heap on such irresponsible people. The hero is the student willing to endure what is bound to be an enormous harassment campaign in order to tell a bunch of people who think god has given them special privilege that, quite to the contrary, we’re fucking equal. That’s real courage.
Personally, I don’t believe they’re all equal. I think Jessica has more moxy and more integrity than the lot of them.